News Local

Youth centre an oasis

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

For youth facing unhealthy situations in their life, the Orillia Youth Resource and Drop In Centre is their safe haven, says Kevin Gangloff, director of the youth centre.

"Whether it be no parental supervision, no guardians, we have homeless youth in this town. We have youth that are prostituting themselves. You name it, it's happening in Orillia," he said. "We get a lot of those young people here because it's a safe place for them to come."

Sarah Sovey, 12, sees the centre as a second home, she said.

"It's kind of like a second home because they treat you like a family," Sovey said. "My family, we get along, but we move around so much that we don't really connect and here people connect."

Sovey said the best thing about the youth centre is always having someone to talk to.

"I talk to a lot of adults," she said of the staff at the centre. They "help me with at-home problems. When you tell someone, it lifts the weight off your chest."

The youth centre, at 9 Front St., Unit No. 1, celebrated 10 years in Orillia yesterday afternoon. The total yearly visits have risen by several thousand since 2003 and that number is continuing to rise.

In 2008, the yearly total was 5,411 visits. This year, there have already been 5,525 visits.

The centre targets youth aged 11 to 16, but does get some who are younger, or older, Gangloff said.

"We target at-risk youth but we have youth of all walks of life," he said.

The centre opens at 3:30 p. m. each day, allowing youth to enjoy unstructured activities such as pool tables, video games, reading and computers.

They can also receive homework help during this time.

There are also cooking classes, music workshops, sexual health and substance workshops and recreational outings, all free of charge. The youth centre is partially funded by the City of Orillia

Some outings have included snow tubing, rock climbing and attending Youth Leadership Camps Canada on Moon Point Drive, Gangloff said.

"It's nice we are providing a (cooking) lesson, but it's also providing a meal," he said. "We get a lot of youth who don't eat on a regular basis."

Workshops have been held by the OPP, Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, international recording artist and multiple Juno Award winner Kimio Oki and Stellula Music in Schools.

"If you can engage that young person into making positive healthy choices, with that positive engagement you can help make a change in them," Gangloff said. "There's a lot of good mentors and role models in this community."

The centre has at least two employees working at all times who are child and youth workers.

"We have exceptionally well-qualified staff," he said. "They're empathetic, they listen and they are supportive."

To learn more about the Orillia Youth Resource and Drop In Centre call 325-8082.

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